Nov 24 2008

Eight on the Break, My #%$@&….

I play in a Sunday-night 8-ball pool league. Last night, my opponent made the 8-ball on the break, which in our league is an instant win. That’s not why I lost the match, though; I lost because I beat this guy 4-0 last time we played, so I got sloppy and let the second game get away. Then in the final game, when I was almost certain to win on my next trip to the table, he ran out five balls and the 8-ball to beat me 3-3. A 3-handicap player won’t often sink that many balls in a row even on an open table, so I have to tip my hat to him: he stepped up when he absolutely had to and beat me fair and square.

I like to win but I don’t obsess about it, because the whole point of the handicap system, like Jason says, is to even the playing field as much as possible. Ideally, everyone has an even chance of winning every night, no matter whom they play. It doesn’t work out that way in practice, because there’s simply too much range between the best and worst players to fit in a 2-7 handicap system—a typical 7 would probably beat a typical 2 100 games in a row—but it helps. For us in the middle 3-5 range, it does pretty well. I do care whether I play my best, which I haven’t done consistently lately, so that’s aggravating.

I enjoy playing league, but mostly because I enjoy pool. When I have my own table at home so I can shoot a little every time I need to step away from the keyboard and think a little, I don’t know if I’ll feel the need to play in a league anymore. (Note to self: make sure pool room and office are neighbors on all future house plans.) Most of the people are friendly and fun, but there’s the usual smattering of dorks and people who take it too seriously, who fret about their handicaps or try to game the system. (I have to admit, they’re nothing compared to the poker players who actually care about cutting the cards, though.)

The bars sometimes don’t make it easy to enjoy. For many bars in Quincy, pool seems to be an afterthought. They need pool for the people like me who would go stir crazy without something to do while we watch everyone else talk over the noise; but it’s not a big money-maker, so they squeeze a table or two into a corner somewhere. Case in point: last night at the Twilight Zone. Nice little neighborhood bar with friendly people and good drink prices, typical of Quincy. But they have two pool tables squeezed into a space that would be nice and roomy for one. So the only place to sit near the action is in the corners, two people per corner, and you have to move every time someone shoots from that direction. The whole team can’t sit together and be team-like unless they go to the other part of the bar, and then they can’t see the game or encourage the one who’s playing.

We run into a lot of that: places where it just isn’t very convenient for a dozen people to show up and play and hang out as teams. Nice bars, just not good pool halls. I’m getting too old for the “When I own my own bar I’ll do it right!” fantasy that every guy has at some point between the ages of 25-35; but if I did, you can be sure everything else would have to adjust to make plenty of room for the pool tables. It’d be glorious, for the few months it stayed in business with that focus.

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